This summer break, I had the opportunity to visit the Inca ruins in Cusco, Peru. I had a wonderful time, but above all, I kept the thought of what is the legacy we are leaving to future generations.

The Inca Empire was the biggest empire in pre-Columbian America, from southwestern Colombia to the north of Chile. An advanced civilization that had castles, military fortress, religious precincts and even an agricultural laboratory; a terraces based structure to cultivate plants with different conditions (amount of water, access to solar light, mono-crops, or muti-crops).

Each of the ruins highlights the engineering and knowledge that Inca bequeathed us; a fundamental part for our development as a society.

Regrettably, the majority of constructions did not survive the conquest of America. The new culture that, besides the fact of being the same biologic species; it did not hesitate to overthrow and destroy temples, castles, and cities to impose its domain. These actions would shorten the Inca legacy.

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While we were traveling in the train one of my fellow travelers wondered out loud: “What would be the legacy of our generation? Would it be the Panama Canal? Palm islands in Dubai? Big cities like New York or London? Which human work could last hundreds of years like the Inca edifications have done? How would we be remembered?

The first answer that came to my head was: “The contamination generated by our modern societies.” That is one and sadly the most long-standing legacy that we would leave for future generations. Within hundred years the ocean could have taken away a big part of our cities, human conflicts or natural disasters could have erased iconic monuments but it will be difficult to eliminate the footprint that our unmeasured consumption and unconscious contamination are leaving behind.

Even so, we do not have to lose hope. We have to keep the fight for a sustainable development and a better society. Let’s get inspired by legends of brave men that even gave their lives to protect their communities and its principles. As individuals, we can create great impact each time we reduce our consumption, reuse products and recycle materials. A previous reflection on the planet before acquiring a product is the key to reach a sustainable development in our civilization.

There is still time to define what legacy we are leaving; with our efforts, we will demonstrate to our future successors that our civilization believed in respect and intragenerational love.

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Nicolás Serrano Palacio is a student of Information Technologies Engineering at Yachay Tech University. During his student life, his work on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been significant, from reducing poverty (SDG 1) by building houses in vulnerable communities to develop a recycling plastic machine as a research project in his university. He has also organized multiple raise awareness events like Yachay Trail (a SDGs thematic trail running race) or Hult Prize at Campus (projects competition focused on helping out refugees). Nicolas is nowadays coordinating the SDSN Youth initiatives in the Andean Region and looking for local funding organizations for Sustainable Development projects.